Depression is a common mental illness in the United Kingdom, affecting about 20% of people over the age of 16.
It is a potentially debilitating condition that carries a wide range of symptoms from anxiety and weight gain through to social isolation and suicidal thoughts.
It is important to understand the symptoms of depression so you can seek treatment for yourself or an affected loved one as soon as possible.
That’s because if left untreated, depression can contribute to many serious illnesses including chronic fatigue, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Depression may also increases a person’s risk of developing other mental illnesses or attempting suicide.
It is perfectly natural to sometimes feel sad, fed up, or annoyed at the world.
These feelings will usually be triggered by a specific event like the loss of a loved one, suffering caused by an illness or being rejected by a romantic partner.
However, intense feelings of sadness should only last a few weeks and should not significantly interfere with your ability to live a normal life.
If you or a loved one experiences negative feelings that persist for many months and begin to impact daily life it may be depression.
Depression is a mental disorder that causes low self worth, a loss of interest in the world, a depressed mood, low energy levels, and a variety of other symptoms.
Depression can be caused by a combination of psychological, biological and social sources of distress.
Common causes of depression
People suffering from chronic illnesses are very likely to experience depression.
It is particularly common in patients suffering from terminal or life threatening illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
Traumatic life experiences
Depression often occurs in people who have experienced traumatic events like the death of a loved one or being the victim of abuse.
Being unemployed for a long period or becoming disabled are also well-known triggers for depression.
Chemical imbalances in the brain
Depression can occur if the brain is not producing adequate levels of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine.
Being stressed for long periods will put the brain in an alert and anxious state, which can eventually lead to depression.
Abusing alcohol or certain types drugs for long periods can cause depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
It is important understand what the symptoms of depression are, so you can immediately obtain help when experiencing them.
It may take many months or years for these symptoms to appear, so it is important to continually re-assess your mental health and the mental health of any loved ones you are concerned about .
Symptoms of depression include:
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
If you often have negative thoughts and feelings about yourself that are difficult to contain, it may be a symptom of depression.
Persistent thoughts of hopelessness are very common as are guilty thoughts about past events.
An abrupt loss of interest in activities and hobbies
If you notice that you or your loved one has suddenly stopped participating in an activity they previously enjoyed, consider it a warning sign of depression.
A sudden change in appetite
Depressed people usually eat much more or much less than normal.
In some cases, the kinds of foods they eat will change as well.
Anxiety usually goes hand-in-hand with depression.
Most depressed people will spend hours ruminating about what may happen in the future or perceived mistakes they have made in the past.
This often leads to the anxiety and other negative feelings.
Difficulty thinking clearly
Depression can have a negative impact on the clarity of your thoughts and your memory.
This symptom is one of the reasons why depressed people sometimes struggle to obtain the help they require.
Fatigue and decreased energy levels
If you are depressed, you will often feel like you are tired or lacking the energy you need.
The tasks that you used to enjoy like playing sports or going on long walk may become difficult. If you are a parent, you might find it harder to keep up with your children.
Changes to your sleeping patterns
It is common for depressed people to experience insomnia.
They often take one or two hours to get to sleep, then wake up multiple times throughout the night. At the other end of the scale, some depressed people will go to bed, then spend 12, 14, or 16 hours asleep.
Irritability or sudden changes in mood
Irritability is one of the most common symptoms of depression.
Unfortunately, it makes talking to a person with depression more difficult, as they are often too upset to discuss their mental health.
Some people will experience outbursts of anger or sadness as a result of depression.
If you notice that your friend no longer seems like their normal self, it is a clear warning sign of depression.
Unexplained aches and pains
Depression can result in changes to a person’s body, causing headaches, digestive problems, and unexplained pains.
Some depressed people will also begin to move and speak more slowly than normal.
Changes to libido and menstrual cycle
Both men and women can experience a reduction in their sex drive when depressed.
Women can also encounter changes to their menstrual cycle.
Loss of confidence
Depression can eat away at a person’s self-esteem and affect their confidence levels.
A depressed person may feel unable to complete challenging tasks like speaking in front of people or solving complex problems.
Depression can also make it harder to make decisions.
Suicidal thoughts are very common amongst depressed people.
It is the most dangerous symptom of depression and a clear sign that a person needs to seek medical help immediately.
When should you seek help?
If you suspect that you or a loved one is depressed, obtain help from a mental health practitioner or doctor as soon as possible.
This will help you stop the disease in its tracks, before its symptoms can worsen and present a greater risk to the health of you or your loved one.